The first month of brand responses to COVID-19

Episode Summary:

As the Coronavirus has disrupted our daily lives, we’ve been keeping tabs on how this global pandemic has affected businesses big and small. Take a listen for some of our favorite brand responses to COVID-19, here.

Host: Clara Shannon, Marketing Associate, Grafik

Voices: Hal Swetnam, Chief Brand Strategist

Lauren Leva, VP of Marketing Services

Jay Kerness, Director of Client Strategy

Shadi Talhouk, Project Manager

Tanya Nazarian, VP of Business Development

Gregg Glaviano, Partner and Creative Director

Lance Wain, CEO


Clara Shannon

It goes without saying that we’re in a moment that feels scary, uncertain, and unsettling. 

Cities have grinded to a halt. 

Businesses have suffered. 

Millions are navigating remote work. 

As the world tries desperately to make sense of the destruction COVID-19 has brought upon us – brands and small businesses have done the same. 

Over the past three weeks you’ve likely received and seen hundreds of COVID-related content, from corporations big and small, all emphasizing how seriously this viral disease is being taken in their corporate offices. 

But how many brand responses have actually been effective? 

For the past month, we’ve been observing how the Coronavirus has affected all corners of our industry – and as we all work from home, I posed a question to my colleagues – what has been your favorite, most effective, response to this global pandemic, and why? 

So from the voices of Grafik, take a listen to some of our favorite COVID-19 observations. 

Hal Swetnam:

This is Hal Swetnam, Chief Brand Strategist at Grafik. It’s times like these when we see what people are really made of. And I think the same can be said for brands. In the past few weeks I’ve seen a few big brands make really horrible decisions, pushing campaigns that are no longer appropriate or exploiting the situation for short gain. But what I’m really impressed with is the way some brands are focusing on how best to respond to America’s fear and anxiety. And they’re doing it with truly brilliant marketing and branding experiences.

Popeye’s Fried Chicken is giving 1,000 customers free access to Netflix. Disney is pushing some of their newest movies to Disney Plus. Chiquita took the Banana Lady off their logo so she could stay at home and Burger King is touting the Coronavirus burger, you know, the quick and easy way to have it your way in your own home? 

Why do I think this is important? Well, because I think people need to have their spirits lifted right now. They need to know that the brands they love, love them back. And in the end, these are the companies that will come back in a big way. They’ll emerge from all of this mess, having invested in their customer base, having built brand equity, having been noted for working on how best to address the needs of our country. Profits don’t come first. People come first. And as far as I’m concerned, that is truly the right idea.

Lauren Leva:

Hi, this is Lauren Leva, VP of Marketing Services. I’ve been really impressed, and pleasantly surprised, by the response from a lot of different types of organizations in every industry over the course of this crisis. Zoom’s freemium model was really perfectly poised for this massive shift to telecommunications and I think they have really presented the combination of quality and affordability that people are looking for, both professionally and personally, right now. For example, last night, my whole family had a Zoom meeting where my little brother told us he was engaged, which was super exciting!

I’ve seen Zoom take a lot of those personal stories and content and share that on social media in a way that’s reminiscent of the Apple ads from over the years of these really heartwarming, touching moments, despite a lot of scary challenges around us. 

And then in the professional world, Zoom has kind of been the go-to model. So I’ll be interested to see how they take this market dominance and potentially stay on top over the course of this. That’ll be interesting to see. 

Another brand that really brightened my week was the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma. If you haven’t seen it, it’s part of the Good News Movement online. The regular marketing staff was ordered to stay home, so the head of security was assigned to social media duty. And it’s a role that he has really taken on with gusto. He’s learning how to use hashtags and abbreviations and people are just going nuts for it. Ironically, his folksy tone is completely authentic and on brand with the cowboy museum. It’s a great reminder that everyone’s kind of taking on multiple roles right now and sometimes branching out of their comfort zone. There’s been a lot of really positive reinforcement and community positivity online. So that’s been really uplifting to see.

Jay Kerness:

Hi, this is Jay Kerness. I’m the Director of Client Strategy for Grafik. The question was, what brand response stands out in this new environment that we have with Coronavirus? I think what stands out is actually all the posting coming from musicians. [They’ve] had kind of stay-at-home concerts. I know that Michael McDonald did one and I know that Indigo Girls did one. 

Quite frankly, that is something that I think is helpful. It is certainly promoting the brands for each of the musicians. And it’s not just professional musicians, local musicians, everyone trying to just make things a little bit better and basically promote their brand at the same time. I also wanted to reference one other. Ford Motor Company is offering a new promotion to assist buyers in the first six months of payments so that they can buy now, but not worry about the finances until later this year. That definitely seems to be directionally right and in line with what folks need right now. It did a really nice job of striking a balance between the sales promotion, but at the same time, it seemed to tap into what folks need and what is appreciated.

Shadi Talhouk:

Hi, my name is Shadi Talhouk. I am a Project Manager at Grafik. For me, Cristiano Ronaldo has done an amazing job of spreading awareness about Coronavirus and how to take care of yourself and protect yourself and others. 

He has 209 million followers on Instagram and his last few posts were about taking care of yourself, taking care of others, and staying fit and exercising at home. He’s recently posted something from the World Health Organization regarding how to wash your hands, maintaining social distancing, avoid touching your face and everything of the sort. He is really taking care and trying to spread awareness through his large social following. 

Tanya Nazarian:

Hi, this is Tanya Nazarian, and I oversee Business Development at Grafik. Well, it has been a really interesting time. I’m sure it has been extra interesting for brands who are trying to develop impactful and relevant ads. One that stood out to me was IKEA. I felt their “stay at home” ad was a better way to look at the social distancing circumstances surrounding COVID-19. Even more so, I liked that there wasn’t a product push there. It was more of a positive PSA encouraging everyone to stay home, while still keeping IKEA top-of-mind. And come to think of it, Ford does a good job in demonstrating the importance of what their products enable with their “built for right now, built to lend a hand” ad. Overall, I’d say it’s the empathy and social awareness of these ads that resonate with me most.

Gregg Glaviano:

Hi, it’s Gregg Glaviano from Grafik and I’m Partner and Creative Director. One of my favorite responses I’ve seen online comes from the Actors Fund. And if you don’t know the Actors Fund, they help actors, stagehands, customers, makeup artists, that whole group of people that contribute to the arts. We’re currently, you know…since all of the theaters are dark, and what they’re doing is…Seth Rudetsky, if you haven’t heard him on the radio. He’s great. 

He is hosting a series called “Stars in the House.” “Stars in the House” are performers that are at home and perform for everyone in the effort to raise money for the Actors Fund. So if you get a chance, go to YouTube, look up “Stars in The House” or the Actors Fund and you’ll probably hear some of their episodes. It’s great. And if you can, at this time, please give to the Actors Fund.

 Lance Wain:

Hi, I’m Lance Wain, and I’m Grafik’s CEO. Over the last three weeks, I’ve been paying close attention to how our world is responding to the current crisis. Political leaders, business men and women, the medical heroes that have been on the front lines, celebrities, athletes, educators, white collar and blue collar, and really just everyday people. Creativity, resourcefulness and humility have really surfaced in a manner that I haven’t seen on such a global scale. And while there are numerous brands that are stepping up to the cause, for me to call out anyone in particular is negating the ultimate breadwinner thus far in my life…

And that’s humanity. Yes, there are some weak links and we’re still in the early stages of this pandemic. But as I witnessed the speed and rapid nature of the virus spread and its impact, I’m also seeing how quickly mankind is coming together, while apart. Humanity is now focused on a mission, vision and a purpose as the most successful brands always do.

Clara Shannon:

As developments of COVID19 continue to surface, we urge you all to stay safe, and to stay at home. 

There will be more updates to come – so please follow along on our site, or follow us on social media, @grafikagency. 

I’m Clara Shannon, and you’re listening to Studio G.

Grafik Logo

Related Articles

The art of the socially distanced sales center
Episode Summary: Despite soaring numbers associated with COVID19, the future of real estate is looking bright. I know what you’re thinking. Given the nature of COVID, how could real estate be doing so well?  The…
Read More
HubSpot’s Director of Sales on “Reading the Room” Amidst a Pandemic
Episode Summary: HubSpot was founded in 2005 with zero customers. Today, over 65,000 businesses in more than 100+ countries use HubSpot’s software, services, and support to transform the way they attract, engage, and delight customers. …
Read More
Rebranding the Washington Football Team
Episode Summary: One of the most exciting local rebrands on our radar right now? The Washington Football Team, which will kick off its season this Sunday under a temporary moniker for the first time in 90…
Read More
Leadership in a crisis: how small businesses can weather a storm
Episode Summary: Being a strong leader means knowing how to weather a storm. Take a listen to our most recent podcast with Grafik’s founder Judy Kirpich and our CEO Lance Wain, as they discuss unique…
Read More